Social Media in a Challenging Economy

Forum One - Online Community Business Forum

Forum One - Online Community Business Forum

I really wanted to ‘live-blog’ from the Forum One’s Online Community Business Forum today, but the wireless access was less than desirable so I am settling for ‘same-day’ blogging.

Today’s first session was with Thor Muller (Valley Swag and GetSatisfaction.com) and Nova Spivak (Twine.com) on thriving in a challenging economy.

Thor started out with an excellent analog of the “buffalo culture” or doing more in a land of less which is what the Native Americans who lived in the Plains perfected.  The Native Americans learned to use the whole animal and he developed 6 themes around this topic:

Hidden value – Just like the Native Americans used the whole buffalo, we must apply these techniques to today’s environment by taking the trash and turning it into shiny objects.  One suggestion was to move customer service beyond a cost center focus.

Integrated value of the tribe – Native American tribes had a communal set of values that they incorporated into everything they did and were as natural as breathing.

Be migratory – You have to go where the buffalo are.  One example is Comcast’s Comcast Cares unit that is a triage swat rapid response team that quick addresses customer issues.

Gathering of tribes – Everyone must depend more on collaboration when times are tough and may even mean collaborating with possible ‘enemies’ to share ideas and grow the market together.

Adaptation - People need to adapt when in tough times or when technology changes how they think.  Thor used the example of Twitter and how writing 140 character messages now seems very natural to those who have used Twitter for a month or more.

Reverence - Metrics are important, but we sometimes strip  out the reverence with a total devotion to the numbers.  Being reverent is doing things that don’t need to necessarily translate to transactions or sales, but doing the right thing and it’s the only thing that can sustain a community in the long term.

Nova Spivak then shared his experiences of building the Twine community which now has over 1 million members with just 24 people in his entire company and only 2 devoted to supporting the community.  As a venture-funded started, the key is to conserve cash, keep the team together using salary cuts instead of layoffs and using viral marketing instead of paid campaigns.  He also mentioned that there should be more opportunities for community sites in a down market especially for communities that energize people around the economic crisis.  In downtimes, people also need more support and have more ‘free’ time to network on community sites.  In addition, many companies are looking for ways to collaborate in less expensive ways than face-to-face meetings.